World Bank Report: ‘A Disastrously Warming Planet Threatens To… Roll Back Decades Of Development’

Credit: Reuters

By Jesse Vogel

Global climate change will damage water access, crop yields, and basic infrastructure around the world, the World Bank announced Wednesday in its report “Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional impacts and the Case for Resilience.” In short, temperature increases risk all efforts to eliminate poverty in developing countries.

This report continues the argument the United Nations High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda laid out a few weeks ago, when it announced, in its agenda for global development action, that “without tackling climate change, we will not succeed in eradicating extreme poverty.”

The panel, co-chaired by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and which included the Center for American Progress’s John Podesta, argued in its May 30th report that climate change is a cross-cutting issue that leaders must address in order to achieve any poverty-eradication goals

The World Bank’s new report reinforces that argument. They focus on three vulnerable global regions — Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa — and analyze potential effects of temperature increases from the current 0.8º C above pre-industrial levels, to 4º C — double the internationally agreed-upon target.

These regions will face “extreme heat, rising sea-levels, severe storms and droughts,” the authors write, all of which will contribute to a “domino effect” where human costs build. Lower crop yields could lead to food shortages and undernutrition, and damaged oceans could lead to devastated tourism and fishing industries — costing people jobs, livelihoods, and food security.

“Climate change, which is already unfolding, could greatly harm the lives and the hopes of individuals and families who have had little hand in raising the Earth’s temperature,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said on Wednesday.

The picture doesn’t look good:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa could face livestock-killing droughts, decreased yields of commodity maize and sorghum crops, and undernourishment of up to 90 percent of the population in some areas.
  • In Southeast Asia, rising sea levels could limit freshwater access, higher water temperatures could decimate fishing industries, and flooding could damage infrastructure.
  • And in South Asia, an area with the highest percentage of its population currently living in poverty, changes to the region’s monsoon cycle could decrease crop yields and thus further stunt childhood development, severe tropical cyclones could destroy coastal infrastructures, and changing water supplies and temperatures could damage the region’s biggest energy sources — hydro and thermal power systems.

Basically, they’re talking about a lot of human suffering. Childhood mortality, lives damaged by tropical cyclones, and diminished food access will all be the new normal.

In addition to higher risks from climate disasters, taking action after 2020 will cost $3.5 trillion more than taking action now, according to the International Energy Agency. Poverty elimination and climate change mitigation both require fast action. We’ll lose lives and dollars if we wait.

Jesse Vogel is an intern with the Center for American Progress’ Energy Team.


This originally stated the costs of delaying action until after 2020 would cost $3.5 million. The correct number is $3.5 trillion. We regret the error.

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10 Responses to World Bank Report: ‘A Disastrously Warming Planet Threatens To… Roll Back Decades Of Development’

  1. dick smith says:

    3.5 “million” more? Must be trillion.

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    For Goodness Sake

    I’m glad to hear that CAP’s John Podesta was part of this panel. He must certainly appreciate the immense gravity of the situation and the urgent need to take serious action, and he must also realize the immense need for Leadership among progressives and Democrats.

    Will CAP (and CP) lead the way in finding out, understanding, and helping the public understand Hillary Clinton’s position on climate change in terms that are clear, concrete, and timely? Among other questions, will CAP/CP lead the way to pose (persistently) the following question to Ms. Clinton, “How would you rule regarding Keystone XL if you were president today — that is, if it were your decision to make? Would you approve it or deny approval? Please be clear and decisive and forthright. Thanks.”

    With John Podesta on this panel, and with Neera Tanden (CAP’s President) having such close connections with Ms. Clinton, and with the need for progressives and Democrats to begin gaining a clear understanding of the positions and demonstrated commitment of would-be Democratic nominees for president, ASAP, posing this (and other) such questions to Ms. Clinton should be a no-brainer.

    I’m interested in hearing what CAP/CP thinks on this.

    As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote long ago,

    “Your goodness must have some edge to it, — else it is none.”

    Thanks and Be Well,


  3. prokaryotes says:

    The possibilities for the required global actions to combat climate change timely, sliding away…

    And we learn that proposed actions to engineer the problem are less effective

    Sulfate Aerosols Cool Climate Less Than Assumed

  4. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Great words from the WB but what are they actually funding? ME

  5. Michael Pope says:

    I find it incongruous that the World Bank on the one hand warns of the very real dangers posed by continued burning of fossil fuels, yet on the other is actively engaged in providing grant and loan funds (>$5 billion) for construction of new coal fired power stations. Other multilateral lending agencies are providing additional funding of over $8 billion.

    None of the power stations they are funding includes carbon capture and sequestration technology. All will contribute to higher levels of greenhouse gas release.

    What these funding institutions have to explain is why they are promoting the use of fossil fuels, notably coal, knowing that the consequences will be rapid increase in CO2 pollution.

    What they have to explain is how they justify implementation of funding policies so harmful to global warming and climate change.

    What they have to tell us is how much loan and grant funding they have provided for building power stations fuelled from renewable energy sources.

  6. Leif says:

    Stop profits from the pollution of the commons.

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The World Bank, along with the IMF, WTO and other organs of Western global dominance, works to keep poor countries poor, their economies open for Western looting and their politics reliably supine to Western demands. I wouldn’t trust a word they say, under any leadership. The mere fact that still, after decades, the top jobs are reserved for Westerners only really gives the ‘Washington Consensus’ game away.

  8. fj says:

    Climate change may force positively disruptive social change essentially captured in the idea of poor people first.

    It is not clear that anything else would work.

  9. fj says:

    A world at war cannot wage an effective war against climate change.

  10. David Moore says:

    Start with the simplest idea here. Stop World Bank funding of coal fired power plants